CalRipkenCal Ripken, baseball’s all-time Iron Man, holds the record for most consecutive games played. He retired from the majors in October, 2001 after 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles – a rare feat in an era when players tend to migrate to the highest paycheck. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He runs the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy from a stadium complex he had built in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md. We caught up with him during the 2010 Ripken World Series youth tournament in late summer to chat about innovation and baseball.

ID: What do you see as one of the most important innovations Major League Baseball has adopted?

CR: Some of the old school guys look at relief pitchers as innovative. In my time, I would say the specialty of the bullpen – how to use guys and platoon guys, the closer and the set-up guys. I think the innovation of the bullpen has been new and healthy for the game. You want your full arsenal of weapons … to put you in position to make the last three outs, the most important outs in the game.

ID: What are some of the better training products, in your opinion?

CR: Pitching machines. You need to have a machine that can throw the ball straight so you can hone your skills. And now we have ones that throw curve balls. But the old fashioned tee was a good tool for me.

ID: As far as training tools and the like, what’s been a dud?

CR: I’m not a big fan of the weighted bat. If you practice with a heavy bat, you’re practicing with a slow swing.

ID: An ump blew a call and cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a no-hitter this year. What are your thoughts on baseball finally adopting instant replay?

CR: Hmm, that’s a big hot topic. I’m not a fan of examining every single play. And I don’t know how instant replay would work in the movement of baseball. I would never want to see some sort of electric umpire. I’m of the opinion we should continue to improve the training of umpires and track their success rates. I also would like the addition of maybe a tech official out there that has the ability to review and communicate on the field after some disputed plays.

ID: Major League Baseball has the reputation of being anti-innovation. You think players using steroids and human growth hormones might have made the league even more culturally resistant to trying new things?

CR: I don’t know, man. That’s out of my area of expertise.

Not a subscriber!? Click here now!


Editor’s note: This article appears in the October 2010 print edition.